20009 (Marriage Records)

Drakkar Sauna 

20009
(Marriage Records)

It's really saying something to call 20009 (say it "two-thousand-ousand-nine") Drakkar Sauna's weirdest work to date. For the past six years or so, Wallace Cochran and Jeff Stolz have perfected a merry strangeness while singing rattly, circus-wagon folk songs about bears, spears, wolf tits and obscure historical figures such as would-have-been president-napper John Surrat (on 2006's Jabraham Lincoln). The duo came briefly — and beautifully — down to earth on last year's Wars and Tornadoes, an entire album of country gospel songs by the Louvin Brothers, whose brand of close-harmony singing Cochran and Stolz have been channeling all along. Released earlier this summer, 20009 grew out of a book written by Cochran titled The Moon for Its Citizens, an experimental work of actual research and crazy made-up stuff that acts as a history of space travel written from the future. And even though the album's songs are drawn from stories of astronauts, rockets and evil brains orbiting the Earth, 20009 is stocked with snappy melodies, ambitious arrangements (employing trumpets, saloon piano and choral vocals) and, above all, moment after moment of quizzical beauty. No one else around can write a line like this, much less sing it in lock-step harmony: Another old man, no relation to me/Climbed up on a roof to look at the moon/The subtlety of her form was terrible to him/He threw himself off the roof though it was only two floors ("Not Ideas About the King But the King Himself"). Drakkar Sauna is nostalgic for a time when men looked up at the heavens, were seduced by the mystery and went and built ridiculous spaceships to try to reach them. As the final refrain of "Von Braun at Nuremburg (For Mort Sahl)" goes: I aim for the stars/But sometimes I hit London/Surely, that's got to mean something. 

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